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Senate grinds on with infrastructure bill votes as timing of final passage remains unclear

The 2,700-page bill, which was released Sunday, would approve $555 billion in new spending.

WASHINGTON — The Senate began voting Monday on amendments to the sweeping infrastructure deal, a day after negotiators released the text of a bill that would approve about $555 billion in new spending to overhaul the country's roads, bridges, public transit and broadband systems.

The Senate adopted two modest amendments: one by Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., involving funding for Native American health care facilities and another by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., related to the telecommunications workforce.

They were the first in what is expected to be a series of votes before final passage of the infrastructure deal, which moved forward last week with the support of 67 senators, including all Democratic-voting senators and 17 Republicans.

It is unclear when the legislation will get a final vote on passage, a process that could drag through the week.

A construction crane in front of the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 2, 2021.
A construction crane in front of the U.S. Capitol on Monday.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who voted last week to advance the bill, said he had tested positive for Covid-19. Graham, who is fully vaccinated and said he has "mild symptoms," said he would quarantine for 10 days, leaving him unlikely to vote on the legislation. (Breakthrough infections are extremely rare, studies show, and no other senator had announced one at time of the Senate vote.)

The votes came after dueling speeches by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who sought to push senators forward, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said there's no need to rush and called for a "robust" amendment process.

Schumer, who controls the Senate schedule, said lawmakers won't leave for a monthlong August recess until they finish work on the infrastructure legislation.

"The longer it takes to finish the bill, the longer we'll be here," he said.

Schumer and McConnell voted to break a filibuster and begin debate on the bill last week. But even as McConnell praised the legislation, he and other Republican senators appeared to be in less of a hurry to finish the package.

"Our full consideration of this bill must not be choked off by any artificial timetable that our Democratic colleagues may have penciled out for political purposes," McConnell said.

Schumer has said the Senate won't adjourn for recess until it also adopts the budget resolution to instruct committees to write a multitrillion-dollar package for President Joe Biden's tax increases and expansions of the social safety net. Democrats expect to pass that without any Republican votes.